Travel and Tolerance

Let’s face it. People travel mainly to get away from home. Yes, there are the exceptional few who are ‘forced’ to travel for work (lucky cows) but for the rest of us paying folks; we do it simply because we want to experience new things. What baffles me then is when travellers complain when faced with the unfamiliar. Surely I’m not alone in this but isn’t that the point of it all?

When in Rome, do as the Romans do
First of all, you are on their turf. If you cannot understand the customs or if the local cuisine isn’t to your liking then that really is too bad. But don’t expect them to know your language or have the same food you eat back home. It seems like simple logic but it’s amazing how many people I’ve met who are in the middle of paradise but are complaining about how only local food is served or how their usual toiletry brands are unavailable or that the locals can’t speak English. Uhm… Why don’t YOU speak their language?


What? You don’t eat silkworm in your country?

Ignorance is not bliss
In this digital age, everything can be googled so there is really no excuse to not reading up on where you are travelling to beforehand. You don’t even have to buy guidebooks as most information is available online. At the very least, know what environment to expect, where to go, the exchange rate, the acceptable dress code and if you are an overachiever, the basic conversational phrases. This will not only save you from a lot of confusing moments but it will subconsciously help you appreciate the unfamiliar culture more readily.

This, however, is bliss

This however is bliss

You brought this upon yourself
So you’ve read through all the factoids about this new place including but not limited to the obscure local language, remote/ unsecure location and extreme cuisine YET you still booked the vacation. Well then, you brought this all upon yourself. The best you can do now is to actually keep an open mind and enjoy every new experience you encounter– even the misadventures because they’re really nothing more than character building exercises and possibly great stories you can share later on. At the end of it all anyway would you just rather be at home? I didn’t think so.


53 thoughts on “Travel and Tolerance

  1. Nothing better than traveling to Thailand and stopping in a McDonald’s to get a Samurai Pork sandwich. What do the samurai have to do with Thailand? And why would I travel almost 8500 miles to eat at a fast food place that I would never enter at home?

  2. I was listening to a radio programme recently which proposed that eating locusts was the future for the world in terms of dealing with our population and hunger issues – easy and cheap form of protein. Apparently there’s a restaurant here in the UK which serves them in a stirfry. The presenter tried some and said it was good. Could be on to something!

  3. Excellent post. How did the “shish-ka-bob ?” taste ?
    I believe part of the problem is that many people ( especially in America) are caught in a bubble of mass media culture where planet Hollywood/Disney/MacDonald s is the ubiquitous norm. Depending where they live and what they access, they somehow see the world as a colourful version of themselves. Their cultural way of life is the norm on which everything else based or emulates.
    Here in Canada we have stories of Americans arriving in the middle of summer expecting snow. If they can get that wrong what happens when they go to someplace much further away ?
    Thanks for visiting my blog it is much appreciated. A number of my posts are tagged for travel.

  4. My experiences traveling in South America were eye-opening and I now have empathy for the immigrants who come to our country. I know what it’s like not to speak the language, etc. I make every effort to be polite and patient as they are learning our English and customs.

  5. Well said. I live in Guatemala (but am originally from the States) and love when people come down here and say things like, “What do you mean you don’t have wifi?” or “I’m sure there’s a Walmart somewhere we can pick one up”. Did you forget where you are or why you’re here? To have a new experience? The more different from our “everyday” lives the better! So eat the bugs!! (Or in my case a few days ago, cow esophaguses…)

  6. I always feel so bad that I don’t speak the local’s language. I do my best to learn some phrases and to ask for help with my pronunciation. many people are willing to teach you their language and find it entertaining to watch me try and struggle.

  7. Great post! I agree whole-heartedly. Sadly though, it’s probably only those that travel and have an appreciation for how travel broadens the mind and spirit that will read blogs like yours and those of fellow travellers.
    Makes my skin crawl when I see Australians abroad acting like louts and not respecting the traditions of the country they are in (e.g. wearing singlets into churches / drinking when it is not appropriate, etc)…

  8. Your story is how a lot of americans are/think/behave. It is all about me. A feeling of entitlement. The selfish and ungrateful idiots behave in this manner. I do not travel but I have read how many countries dislike american tourists. Ill behaved ingrates. Every word is true. I am sure their are exceptions. Excellent post.

      • I hate to sound defensive, but it’s more than a little frustrating to always hear people crack on US tourists. I’ve met travelers from all over the world, and the “ugly tourist” knows no national boundaries. Russian, Japanese, English, Argentinian… doesn’t matter. Some people are good travelers, some are not. Go to any ski area in the American west and you’ll hear locals complain about European skiers (loud, rude, don’t know how to stand in line). When I was in Ecuador last year some of the rudest people I met were Ecuadorians – does that mean all Ecuadorians are bad people? Of course not.

        OK. Rant finished.

  9. Well said. I don’t understand people who are travelling half world just to sit in front of the swimming pool in the hotel and not even leaving it for five minutes and those who are travelling somewhere just to compain how hot is it, how food is horrible, that they don’t have potatos/ chips/ hamburgers/ select whatever is common in your country. What they are travelling then for? Sometimes we can not understand something or do not feel comfortable – but I totally agree – don’t make those people adjust to us as we would not like to be made adjusted in our own country. I had some posts on cultural differences topics, maybe you’ll like it: (and some other in Cultures section).

  10. I totally agree. I remember some 30 years ago being in the Trento region of Italy when one of my fellow travelers accosted the travel company rep in the hotel, all but pinning the rep to the wall and declaring how unacceptable it was that he and his wife should have to eat Italian food. At the time my wife and I were both wondering why they had bothered to travel abroad if they were not prepared to sample all aspects of the country they were visiting. I can’t imagine how that couple would have reacted to being offered silk worms for lunch.

    • I had a similar situation on a recent trip. It’s the inspiration for this article really. Poor travel rep! If it were me, I wouldn’t know whether I’d scream at the couple or laugh at their silliness. “What?! You didn’t know they served Italian food in Italy?! You moron!”

      • That trip was one of only two “package” trips that we ever took and was in the earliest years of our travels. It was one of the main reasons we switched to managing nearly all aspects of our subsequent holidays. We wanted to avoid being potentially boxed in with the worst types of traveller, the ones that are trying to take a piece of “England” with them and turn other countries into “England with sunshine”. We also wanted to avoid the possibility of being locked into the packaged guided tours which from our experience tended to be in large groups and at accelerated pace. We prefer to explore independently and when necessary join smaller more personal organised trips.

      • I like that bit about England w sunshine. Haha! Yeah I do get what you mean about the accelerated pace. It’s like you go somewhere to just take pictures then move on to the next destination. It gives you that feeling of having been there but not really being there if that makes sense.

  11. Great post. It is amazing how people expect foreign cultures to not be just that- foreign. That’s why you travel is to gain new experiences and learn. I’m glad that there are more and more people traveling for these reasons!

  12. OMG, you have put into words what I have always thought and voiced to countless Americans when I traveled across the world while on active duty in the U.S. Army. The hard truth is we are the only country and people in the world who expect the world to bend to our whims, culture and beliefs. No matter what country I have traveled to or for that matter been stationed in, I have always said and believed that out of respect for that particular country and culture we should try at the very least learn the language and the culture. Most of the locals in any country will know without a doubt you are a foreigner, especially American, they will undoubtedly accept you with possible a grin or a smile and at times a straight out laugh…but then they will be generous enough to help you. Prime example are the folks or teams I have seen on Amazing race, (one particular pair of brunettes, while in China,) asked that very question, “Why can’t they speak English here?” Duh, perhaps because they are in China and are Chinese…go figure.

    Thanks for sharing a great post. Love it. More in the U.S. need to read this!

    • Well said. The world is such a big place and when you travel and meet more people, you realise how diverse everyone is and how you’re such a small piece in this whole puzzle. I’ve read before that intolerance is nothing more than masked superiority complex. You think others are inferior just because they are different. I’d like to think it’s superiority complex coupled with stupidity.

  13. Great post, I really don’t like the word tolerance though it reminds me of tolerating fruit flies in your apartment in the summer because you forgot to toss out the wine bottles when you had a buzz on. I think people should aim to understand when they travel. I can’t wait to go get lost in Cuba this March!

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